I'm Just Saying…

April 24, 2016

The Meditation Cushion Provocation

A meditation cushion inspired this post.

Not meditation.  The cushion.

If I hadn’t been provoked, I wouldn’t have made the observation. Maybe I should have called the post, The Meditation Cushion Observation.

Too late now. I’ll come back to that in a minute…

Writers observe. Everything. It’s in the job description. That’s a good thing.

Or is it?

Instead of being in the moment, we’re standing outside it, watching.

I think we do this because our heads are filled with characters running amok, like a non-stop house party where your rude guests keep you up all night, and then ignore you anyway. Writers are captives to these pesky, yet much loved boarders. We would be lost without them, so we’re always looking for material for them.

Playwright and screenwriter Phoebe Ephron, mother of my idol, Nora Ephron, had a particular writing philosophy: Everything is copy.

I believe it.

I think I had been  observing for copy long before I realized I was doing it. Take, for example, my father’s funeral. I remember it well…

There we all are, sitting in solemn silence as the rabbi gives the eulogy.

And then the beeper goes off.

The rabbi’s beeper.

Twice.

At the time, in the middle of my shock and grief, I think… does this happen at other funerals? Do other families have the memorial service for their loved one interrupted by a beeper?

The beeper belonging to their chosen clergyman.

Twice.

I bet they don’t.

Nope. Just my family.

Later, when time had passed, I didn’t look back on this event with bitterness or indignation. No, I thought, “I need to use this in a story.”

Is that good? Not sure.

Even The Rodent Materialization Excitation of 2012 has been used for fiction fodder.

Sidebar: you will never find Disney’s Ratatouille on my DVR.

Ever.

So what can I do?  It’s futile to fight it. I’m wired this way. But I do wonder…is something greater at work here?

As soon as something untoward happens, my friend Rebecca automatically points the finger at “The Universe,” (when she’s not sighing, “Jesus take the wheel”). This “Universe,” this ethereal something or other, doing something or other in our lives, is seen as a culprit, up to no good. But I do wonder, could “The Universe” be helping me by sending the odd, the unusual, and the downright shitty my way?

After all, I do need material.

Is “The Universe” putting me in these situations, forcing me to examine human nature—and providing copy?

So back to The Meditation Cushion Provocation

I’m taking a certification course as a Meditation Instructor.

I order a meditation cushion for my practice. I use a delivery address other than my home.

I’ve used this address many times. No problemo.

I get a message from Amazon. They can’t deliver my meditation cushion to my chosen address.

I contact Amazon customer service (which is awesome, by the way) and speak to the rep (who is very nice).

We have a conference call with a rep for a  Carrier Who Shall Remain Nameless (Also nice. Not helpful, but nice).

I am waiting for my meditation cushion, I say. Deliveries have been made to the given address before, I say.

I get “the speech.” Do you know about the speech? It’s the one that tells you your customer satisfaction is about to nosedive right into the toilet.

“I don’t know why the driver made deliveries to that address in the past. He should not have done that.”

Yes, Yes he should have. He should have done it now. If he did, I would have my meditation cushion.

The Amazon rep is a trooper. Seriously.  She’s in there working for a win-win solution.

Thank you Amazon sales representative. Thank you for trying to help me get my meditation cushion.

“We can deliver the package to a holding center,” says the rep for the Carrier Who Shall Remain Nameless.

Awesome. I can get my meditation cushion.

“For pickup you need to present legal identification with an address matching the address on the package.”

And we’re a no-go on the meditation cushion.

I give it one last try.

“Can I give you a different address for delivery?”

“The sender has restrictions on the package.”

Impossible. This is a meditation cushion. Meditation leads to liberation. Restrictions are the antithesis of meditation cushions. Abhorrent. Anathema. No-No’s.

“I’m not allowed to accept changes of address,” says the rep for The Carrier Who Shall Remain Nameless.

That’s a  negative on the meditation cushion.

As my temper goes to boil, I have a thought…

Hmmm, what would happen if I went batshit crazy right now because I can’t get my meditation cushion?

Would my kickass Amazon customer service representative find it odd that I study meditation and go batshit crazy because of non-delivery of my meditation cushion?

Would she conclude meditation is ineffective and a waste of time if I scream, “I WANT MY MEDITATION CUSHION, BITCH!”

I don’t do that.

But hey, I think, what if I write a story where someone DOES go batshit over non-delivery of their meditation cushion?

I may not have my meditation cushion but I have a kickass scene idea for a story.

I may not have my meditation cushion but it’s been a great day, creatively speaking!

Yay for creativity! Way to go Universe!

I cancelled the order.

Someday I’ll tell you about the doctor’s office incident.

You can remind me. Just mention “The Octogenarian Xenophobe Encounter” and that should do it.

Someday I’ll use it in a story.

Yup.

Thank you, Universe.

I think.

 

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August 3, 2010

The Creativity Fear Factor

Filed under: Art — jillamyrosenblatt @ 1:35 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m afraid of my watercolor brushes. Literally. Let me explain. Creatives, as we are sometimes called, usually create in more than one area. Our first chosen field may be writing, painting, music, dance, you name it, but there is usually another serious interest or hobby whispering in our ear. I am first, foremost, and forever, a writer and I am thankful that I have never experienced a fear of picking up the pencil and pad. But I am a wanna-be artist. I think about art, admire art, dream about making art, I could talk about art from now until next week. But for some reason, I can’t actually sit down to engage in the creative process of making art. To put my brush to the paper is to invite a panic attack of “what if it doesn’t come out right?” Just fingering the tubes of paint can bring on a stifling case of nerves. I don’t think Cobalt Blue is supposed to have such an effect on a person. You see my problem. 

There are days I will drive home from work thinking, “As soon as I get home I should sit down at my desk and spend some time painting.” I will be excited about this idea, gleeful, even ready to chortle with pleasure. And then the feelings will hit me like a boxer’s combination move; hesitation, anxiety, the unpleasant feeling of unrest. I can’t pick a subject, I lose my ability to make interpretive decisions about color, confusion is my companion. Sure enough, by the time I reach home, I can feel the creativity draining out of me and I decide to do something else. I would like it noted that I have no trouble purchasing books about learning to create art. I am a power shopper for art supplies. My collection of sketching pencils is impressive. I have a tub of watercolor paint tubes. Instructors have commented on the fine quality of brushes I own. I can copy pictures reasonably well. I have taken drawing lessons, watercolor lessons, life drawing lessons and yet I never quite get a handle on the basic concepts needed to create something of my own. I have to tell you: it’s a bitch.

I have been dealing with this for almost twenty years. Now I’m depressed just having typed that sentence. I console myself that I am not the only one out there with this issue. And how do I know this?

The  book Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (And Rewards) of Creating Art,  explores this very dilemma. David Bayles and Ted Orland explained this multi-pronged problem perfectly and although it is easy in theory to understand what the problem is, that doesn’t make it any easier to conquer. To oversimplify and paraphrase, to think about art is to imagine all of the wonderful pictures I could create, rather than face picking up the brush and finding the actual result is so much less than what I’d hoped for. In short, to never draw or paint is to never fail.

I find this a curious phenomenon. I pick up a pencil and pad and write lousy sentences all the time. That’s a given with first drafts. You’re supposed to write badly. It’s part of the process. Ernest Hemingway said “The first draft of anything is shit.” Last semester, I taught Introduction to Writing the Novel. I exhorted my students: “You must write, even if you write badly, you must write.” And then I gave them an analogy that has haunted me ever since I said it. “You can’t be afraid to put words down on paper,” I told them, “You can’t worry if the words are good or bad.  You have to write badly before you can write well. Dancers have to stumble before they get smooth,  musicians have to squeak on their instruments before they play well, artists have to paint a lot of bad pictures before they paint good ones.”  Take your own advice much? I thought to myself.

What is it about creating art? It’s not as if the art police are waiting outside the door, ready to swoop in and “Book ’em Danno” because my canvas isn’t a Picasso. I find making art to be a singular challenge. Words on a page can be erased and replaced, musicians can stop playing and begin again, dancers will pick themselves up and start over but a picture that is so clearly not what it was meant to be casts a harsh and damning glare. A picture that is not well done cannot be undone. Not even throwing it in the garbage can erase the experience.   

How many creatives, I wonder,  go through the same experience, struggling to find the joy that is supposed to be the focal point of the experience, the relaxed pursuit of self-expression through form, line, and color? How many creatives are blinded to the concept of art as interpretation, not re-creation of exactly what is seen? Between resistance to the notion that process is paramount and the nagging fear that if the piece is not good enough to be sold it has no value, creativity is all but lost.  

Bayles and Orland make an excellent point in their book when they write, “…there’s generally no good reason why others should care about most of any one artist’s work.” Point taken. Then why do it? Well, I look at it this way. There are countless reasons why writers write. Love of language, love of story, overactive imagionation, etc. Personally speaking, it is all of those things, but it is also about crafting a story that I would want to read. I desperately hope that the completed work will touch the reader and they will feel the same love for the story, the characters, as I do. If writer’s write for the love of creating story, musicians play for love of music, then why not draw and paint for the same reason?  

I think I wrote this not just for myself but for other creatives out there struggling with the same predicament. You are not alone. It is not New Year’s and I’m not much for resolutions. But perhaps the mid-point of the year is as good a time as any to adopt a new outlook as we head for the home stretch of 2010. No matter how much time has been lost in fear and doubt, there is always time to start anew. I think it’s time to approach making art with a new attitude of experimentation expecting to enjoy the creative process.

I’m ready to pick up my paintbrush. Who’s with me?

J.

April 21, 2010

It All Begins With a Question…

Secret Author Confession: one of the biggest fears I have as a writer is that I will run out of stories to write. That I will come to the end of a project and take a tiptoe through the tulips of my mind searching for my next story and find nothing but scorched earth and a stray weed. It’s so quiet you can hear the crickets chirping. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has this nail-biting little problem… am I?

When I was finishing For Better or Worse I was already pondering what to do next. One idea will give me a straw to hang on to (and the eye twitch usually abates).  Two ideas and I can feel my blood pressure lower. Three ideas and I can put away the supersized Excedrin PM bottle. I’m going to be okay. 

To say I had three ideas is a bit misleading. Actually, I had questions. This may sound self-serving but when I write a book, I’m usually trying to figure something out that’s been bugging me. Writing the book may not give me any answers but I get the chance to explore the issue; and it keeps me off the streets and out of trouble.

In Project Jennifer, I truly wondered if having a different name would have meant a different life, a different personality, a different destiny. Here’s a piece of trivia: I was originally supposed to be named Jennifer. My father said no to Jennifer and I wound up as Jill. I can only imagine the possibilities. “I could’ve been a contender”…

In For Better or Worse, I questioned the nature of power, emotional and psychological, in relationships. In short, the battle for the upper hand. So I wrote about three couples; one couple who fights over power, one couple where the husband has all the power (and misuses it spectacularly) and one couple that chooses not to fight over power. Who had the best relationship? Good question. I have my choice but readers may not agree.

For my next project I finally settled on Deciphering Bella. And what question captured my attention? In actuality, it’s a question born of a statement. A statement I had been hearing quite frequently. Lately, I keep hearing of couples having difficulties, I should say, one partner in the marriage is having difficulties, accident, illness, problems through no fault of their own and out of their control. The comment I keep hearing in regard to the other partner is “He (She) didn’t sign up for this.” My question: What does that mean? How much does a marriage partner sign up for? When is the point where it becomes too much? (That’s more than one question, I know).

Deciphering Bella is the story of Isabella Hitchens, a young woman recently married and settled happily, by all appearances, with her husband Mark. Shortly after the marriage, Bella begins to exhibit disturbing signs of emotional and mental instability, instability that is a result from a painful past she has concealed from her husband. Deciphering Bella is as much about Bella as it is about the marriage of Bella and Mark. Although I always have an outline in mind when I begin, a story changes, almost organically; it grows into something more than when I first began. As I write Deciphering Bella, I am interested to see how Mark handles Bella’s problems and what his response will be to the notion of “I didn’t sign up for this.” 

 As a writer, you always hope that readers will be as attached to your characters as you are. I am still getting to know Bella and Mark but I am already attached to them. I hope you will be too as you get to know them.

J.

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